CW INTERVIEW: Freddie Spencer

The American World Champion (1983 and 1985) shares his thoughts on MotoGP 2015.

Freddie Spencer portrait

Q: Did you enjoy the Qatar race?

A: Absolutely. Everyone expected Marc Marquez to take control, and the Ducati's pole position made the start of the season even more thrilling. The question mark was if Dovizioso could maintain a quick consistent pace. The race was interesting right from the start, when Marc made a mistake and ran wide at the first corner. Jorge got a good start and it looked like he was going to be the strongest.. Valentino didn't look that strong at the beginning, but it turned out that he made a very smart race. He produced a tactical master class with a memorable last lap.

Q: Will Rossi’s win and two Ducatis on the podium change the 2015 MotoGP scenario?

A: Qatar is a specific and unique circuit. It's a night race, the grip there is not that great, the desert setting and it's the first race! We know that Losail is a good track for Yamaha. I don't think Honda is struggling. Winning races is all about the pace and being able to maintain it consistently. Racing at that level is not only about the speed, it's the ability to maintain a high pace consistently and adapt to the race condition, tire management and so on. That's what Valentino did so well.

Marc Marquez Qatar race action

Q: Marquez admitted he made a mistake. Was he feeling the pressure?

A: Marc is the man to beat. He simply showed that he’s human. He ran wide and rejoined the race last. He maintained an impressive pace coming through the pack and getting closer. He was up to sixth by lap eight of 22, then he overtook Dani (Pedrosa) for fifth. The Qatar race doesn’t compromise his season. He will be even more determined in Austin.

Q: What is special about Marc Marquez?

A: Two years ago, when he arrived in MotoGP, he was not intimidated. He understood his own abilities and pushed everybody else to raise the level. What I appreciate about Marc is that he is not another rider; he really makes the difference. When I first met him in 2013, I liked him a lot because he is a smart rider. He has the ability to figure things out in advance and he is able to manage and adapt to race conditions. Marc has grown as a racer, in his performance, and in his ability to control the pace. In his debut season in MotoGP, he pushed a lot to find the limit, sometimes he crashed, but in the race it worked out okay. He was calmer in 2014 and I expect that this year he will be wiser and smarter. At the end of the day, he wants the championship, but he doesn’t have anything to prove.

Freddie Spencer and Marc Marquez

Q: Heading to round 2, what should we expect at COTA?

A: We will see the same people. Marc Marquez, for sure, will be even more determined. COTA is “his” circuit. Jorge wants to prove himself; he really wanted to win in Qatar. And Valentino will be inspired by his success. Yamaha will be there, as will the Ducatis.

Q: Were you surprised by the new Ducati GP15?

A: It’ s great to see Ducati back and it’s very important for the championship. A competitive Ducati in MotoGP is like a competitive Ferrari in F1. I don’t know if they can fight for the podium in every race. We know they have the advantage of the soft tire, but they showed to have a good pace too. The bike steers better and looks more forgiving and predictable. It has good power and it looks good with regard to tire management.

Valentino Rossi Qatar race action

Q: Valentino Rossi said that with a good lifestyle and training, he can be competitive until he is 40 because “determination and concentration” make the difference. Do you agree?

A: Sure. I will add experience and wisdom, too. In Qatar, Valentino finished the first lap in 10th and was battling to find a way through the satellite riders. When he saw on his board that Marquez was last, he knew that it was an opportunity and that’s what great champions do—take advantage of the situation. Rossi moved to the top and persevered. Doing so at 36, beating those guys in a very tough race, brings a lot of spice to MotoGP.

Q: Will Marquez be able to dominate like last year?

A: It is possible. It won’t surprise anyone if he wins more races than last year. But in racing, you never know what can happen. It’s just one race at a time, one practice at a time. It will be interesting to see how Marquez will persevere. He can be beaten, as everyone is human, but I think this happens in special circumstances.

Grand Prix of Qatar race action

Q: How can Marquez be beaten?

A: Trying to put pressure on him. Marc doesn’t make many mistakes. Marc and Honda look like the right combination. He is the World Champion, and each year the bike will be more tailored around him. Yamaha did the same with Valentino, and the M1 suits him very well. Valentino and Jorge are the two toughest contenders.

Q: There was not a single Spanish rider on the Qatar podium. Is this a signal of a change?

A: It’s great to see the diversity, and that’s what championship was. Hopefully, in a few years, there will be more riders representing different countries. MotoAmerica is coming onboard, trying to lay the ground to have US riders back on top. Qatar showed that it will be a very interesting year with more riders able to fight for the win. And there’s a good battle among the manufacturers. Ducati is competitive and Suzuki is back.

Q: If Qatar was the first day of school, what grades would you give to the main players?

A: Valentino Rossi deserves an A+ for strategy and preparation. He took advantage of the situation. His last lap was perfect and won the race. An A for Andrea Dovizioso. He did a great job but made a mistake. He put the Ducati in position to fight for the win. Andrea Iannone gets a B+; he has less experience than the other top four riders, and claimed the podium. Marc Marquez gets a C+. He made mistakes but recovered. Jorge Lorenzo gets a B: he rode well, but he couldn’t keep the pace to the end.

Freddie Spencer.

Freddie Spencer and Marc Marquez.

Freddie Spencer.

Marc Marquez.

Ducati Team.

Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso.

Valentino Rossi.

Qatar race action.

Valentino Rossi.